A few words about writing sex scenes
by Suz deMello
From my writing treatise, Plotting and Planning, available at
Scenes are the building blocks of your story, for acts are comprised of scenes. They're nothing more than events, most often interactions between your characters. Scenes should fulfill at least one or two of the below purposes—best if you can include all four.
•Reveal or develop character
•Complicate or resolve conflict
•Express setting, mood, theme
Everything in your manuscript should have a function, even every comma or em-dash.
How does this apply to the writing of erotica?
Too often, sex scenes are shoehorned into a story to increase the word count or the heat level, while those scenes don't fulfill any other function. To quote from Plotting and Planning again, Everything in a story should contribute to it, from the biggest monster to the tiniest comma.
If a scene doesn't contribute to the story, it doesn't belong there. It doesn't matter how well-written it is. It doesn't matter how hot it is. It doesn't matter how much you, the author, may love the beautiful prose or the scorching hot, kinky sex.
There's a piece of writerly advice out there: Kill your darlings.
No one's quite sure where this phrase originated, but it's been repeated often, by such notable authors as William Faulkner and Stephen King.
But it doesn't matter who originated the phrase--it's great advice. We often fall in love with our prose and are loath to cut it, especially when we may have slaved over a particularly well-turned clause or exhaustively researched, say, the eating habits of the lesser lemur of Madagascar.
But fiction is no place to be a smarty-pants. Leave that for term papers, book reports and theses.
In terms of writing sex scenes, what do we leave in and what to we cut?
We leave in those scenes that fulfill at least one of the above purposes. Ideally, a well-written, thoughtfully planned encounter will fulfill more than one purpose.
Here's a brief example, from a story I wrote called Gypsy Witch. The backstory is that the heroine is dating a cop.
Ben propped himself up on his elbows to better see the naked woman beneath him. Sheened with sweat, Elena’s lush curves glowed in the reddish half-light of her bedroom, curtained in exotically patterned swaths of gauze and silk. A curl of smoke from a lit incense stick scented the air with sandalwood. Otherworldly New Age music flowed out of a boombox in the corner, irritating the hell out of him.
Though the paragraph is very sensual, there’s quite a bit of characterization and even a little conflict—and this is only the first paragraph of the story. We see that Ben is very “feet-on-the-ground” while Elena, his lover, is exotic and New-Agey. So character is described, setting is related and the romantic conflict is shown.
If you like what you read, find the story here: http://www.ellorascave.com/gypsy-witch.html
As a romance novelist, I believe firmly that erotic scenes should never be gratuitous. If a writer keeps the purposes a scene must fulfill in mind while writing, the sex is never out of place but is a seamless part of a well-written story.
About the Author:
Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written seventeen romance novels in several subgenres, including erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms as Totally Bound and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.
Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.
A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.
Check out Suzie's site: http://www.suzdemello.com
And her blog: http://www.TheVelvetLair.com